Didn’t want to leave you hanging. At IFSA-Butler orientation, they were saying how you can get into serious trouble with immigration if you don’t show up for class and you’re on a student visa. So someone asked what it would take to be deported. (Laughs.) Then this morning at UCL orientation we had a session about UK and US education differences (same thing as yesterday) and on the slide show it said that you’ve got to have 70% attendance. So there you have it.
Remember yesterday I said that Slade orientation starts at 3? That’s still true. But general UCL orientation began at 10. Luckily, when I woke up this morning, I had a sudden realization that the Slade materials I had received said that the Slade orientation was part of the other orientation. I’m glad I realized, but the whole thing was pointless. More about things that don’t apply to me. But that’s great. Because if was taking regular classes I probably would have had a panic attack by now. And that whole class registration thing? Slade doesn’t have to do it! And that’s really great because the enrollment system (I mean enrollment in the American sense. Enrollment in the British sense means getting your ID and getting access to UCL facilities) here is more than difficult to navigate. But there’s no point in ranting because it doesn’t affect me directly. However, enrollment (the British kind) DOES affect me and I’m not looking forward. Supposedly, we were all sent enrollment appointment times and they said that if you didn’t receive one, just come to the front of the lecture hall after the presentation. Almost all 300 abroad students got on line and then the powers that be were all “WE SENT YOU THE EMAIL SUCKS FOR YOU IF YOU CAN’T FIND IT NOW YOU NEED TO COME AT 9:30 AM TOMORROW MORNING AND BE PREPARED TO WAIT.” Naturally, I assumed the role of Joe Bierman and spoke in a slow, quiet, but clearly tempered voice and explained just how absurd this situation was. It was a two-way “I’m right and you’re wrong” sort of thing. And sadly, team USA lost. They did send the emails, they just made the email look like a regular generic email blast about all the things at UCL we have to look forward to and then at the way way way bottom it said your enrollment time. There was no indication that it was a personal email. Fine, they were right and we did receive the email. But if 200+ people seemed to have been unable to find it, they should have tried a different strategy. Sarah-1, UCL-0. Just kidding, I love this place. I LOVE SLADE and I’ll tell you about that as I ramble on.
We had a 1.5 hour lunch break and I thought I’d go over the nearest museum, but then I decided I’d go find the Slade and give myself a self-guided tour even though I’d be getting one later.
I love maps so it was great fun to find my way and as I was walking in the right direction, someone stops me and asked if I knew where the registrar’s office was. And I did! I showed her my handy-dandy map and pointed her in the right direction and I saw her on the way out so I must have guided her correctly! Her name is Ruth. She’s from Uganda and studied fashion design. She’s been living in the UK for 10 years and lived in Iceland before that. We walked the rest of the block together and she wished me well and thanked me and told me that people should buy my sculptures. I hope I bump into her again.
I found the Slade and walked in and the whole place smelled familiar and I was instantly calm. Turpentine and plaster dust, a winning combination. The building has so much character and I worry that as I rave about it, it will sound like I’m dissing out Goldman Schwartz. I AM NOT. I love GS dearly. It’s my home and there are elements I greatly miss about it, so the Slade is not a replacement. I’m not comparing.
Usually, when I build something up in my mind, the reality of it disappoints me tremendously when it looks nothing like what I imagined (sounds familiar? Bunnies, anyone). And I’ve been thinking about the Slade for over a year. I had such extensive stories in my head that I knew I could be in for trouble upon arriving. It looks nothing like I imagined, but what it actually is, for once in my life, resonates deeply with me. I don’t know what it is, but I’m excited to keep figuring it out.
After my visit to the Slade I found a small park right near the Chemistry building where we were having orientation. A lovely find. By the time I walked through, it was time to go back to orientation. And guess who I met there? Two fellow Ramazers! Yael Stern and Dara Marans. We exchanged numbers! Yay for familiar faces. Dana and Avi walked in and they had an extra DDs sandwich that they bought at Sainsbury’s (supermarket) and let me have it! Made my day. Not that I don’t love chocolate and chips, but there’s nothing like an unexpected sandwich. And it was a three pack! A great deal, too. 3 quid for the sandwich pack, bag of chips and a soda. Lunch is served. Everyday. For six months.
Then we had one more pointless (for me at least) orientation session. I left early to get to Slade orientation on time which turned out to start 30 minutes later than we expected. But I had some time to talk to the 12 other abroad students and read the packet. Lou Adkin, the office coordinator greeted us and gave us some forms to fill out as well. Then Andrew Stahl, the director of the painting department, addressed us for a little while and gave us the basic gist of life at the Slade. Of the abroad students, I am the only sculpture major, so that’s exciting. Melanie Jackson is the Head of Undergraduate Sculpture as well as the Direct0r of Studies, Undergraduate Programmes, and Undergraduate Tutor. This is a position that she and Andrew switch off between. I didn’t get to meet her today because she’s just returned from her sabbatical and still getting settled in. One thing Andrew said really resonated with me. He was saying that there will be an element of shock at first given the unstructured environment, lack of prompts, direction, etc. And on top of that, it’ll take some time to adjust to the nature of London and its residents. But in a months time, we’ll want to find a way to transfer permanently and move to London. As he was talking, I was thinking two things:
1) THANK GOD I HAD THE EXPERIENCE I HAD IN SENIOR STUDIO THIS PAST SEMESTER. Could not have prepared me better (HI DEB! If you’re reading.)
2)I have no clue what I’ll be making this semester and I feel completely at peace with that. I’m not even riding on the success of the bunnies anymore (though I did receive a message today from a Brandeis alum on the There Are Bunnies Everywhere page asking for a bunny) but I still trust that something will occur to me. It almost seems irrational, given my usual temperament. During the UCL orientation this morning, Dr. Paul Walker, a higher up at UCL, spoke to us about the nature of learning. It was fascinating, inspiring, humorous, all that good stuff. But he said a few things that struck me in particular.
“When you are succeeding, you are not thinking about your ‘ability.'”
If you’re playing catch with someone, you’re not thinking “I must summon my baseball catching abilities now.”
When I’m in bunny making mode, I could care less about what I’m doing next.
“When your attention is drawn to yourself, you are less effective.”
If you’re being forced to think of something creative on the spot, it suddenly becomes impossible.
I hope that lesson dictates my time here. I’m excited to be in the research/absorbing/be inspired by everything phase of this process this time. I’ve already purchased a ticket to go to the Tate Modern on Sunday (mapped my trip and everything!) to see the Turner Prize Exhibition on its last day. Andrew was giving us a few weekend suggestions and told us that he knew the exhibition was in its final days. I’m so excited that I caught it in the nick of time!
After that, I decided that I want to see what happens above ground so instead of taking the tube back home, I took out my map (but discreetly, because I didn’t want to look like a tourist, which puts your at greater risk for being mugged) and walked back. Now I know that UCL to Praed by foot takes about 30 minutes, more or less. And now I know just how small the distance between tube stops is. All good things. I love my map. So much.
I was thinking that maybe I’d print out a white copy of the London map and mark every street I’ve walked on with red marker and see how much of London I cover by the end of the semester. It’ll be a motivating factor. I’ll have to find things to do and see on obscure streets I wouldn’t otherwise visit! All in favor? Great.
Once I got home I called the family that was supposed to host me and Dana this Shabbat to cancel our plans. Unfortunately, part 2 of my orientation ends too close to Shabbos to travel far out of Central London. I have enough time to get home, though. Luckily, those plans have already been rescheduled! We decided that for this Shabbos we’d try out the Bloomsbury Chabad (only .7 miles from our flat) for dinner and lunch. It’ll be nice to be close by especially after having a week with minimal sleep. Because I had orientation this morning, my plans for coffee with Rosie fell through but she’s coming to Shabbos dinner at Chabad with me! (Josh, I feel so threatened by you now.)
Spent the last few hours multitasking between writing this post, looking up kosher food online for Avi, Dana and GPod while they went shopping at Waitrose, catching up with people back home and sending emails. We got a delivery of plates and silverware tonight! And now there’s food to fill the fridge. Waitrose has a decent kosher aisle–cheese! Can’t ask for much more. Now Dana and I are going to kasher the stove and get dinner going.
I think that’s all for now….I took pictures today and will post them shortly.